This was a two day event, from the 5th to 6th of June 2017. The primary aim was to share the preliminary findings of the research with participants principally drawn from Ghana Judicial Service, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Private and State Media, and Civil Society. The reason for this combined exercise was the realization that the issue of an effective and efficient protection and enforcement of human rights requires an integrative approach. Therefore dealing with these institutions or stakeholders in their isolated context will dim the capacity of the state, and the national human rights constituency for that matter from recognizing the true scope of their duties in the rights struggle. It will as well blunt findings of researchers from making an impact on state policy.
In all, 50 participants attended the training event. Out of this, 2 were Justices of the Court of Appeal one of whom was the Director of the Judicial Training Institute of Ghana; 10 Justices of the High Court; 10 Circuit Court Judges, 10 Magistrates (of the District Courts); 5 personnel from CHRAJ; 10 from human rights related NGOs; and 5 media practitioners from the Private and State Media. The first day saw 48 of them participating with only one Magistrate and one journalist from the State controlled Daily Graphic absenting themselves with apologies. The second day witnessed 100% attendance. We are glad to report that the activities in the two days went on well with lively discussion and active participation of the participants.
Legislative structures on human rights: present but not effective
The first day of the training was devoted to two exercises: the first was a brief explanation of the primary objectives of the research project, its comparative scope (Ghana-Cambodia) and its delimited national range. The second part was a detailed lecture on the scope of human rights in Ghana. This was seen as a necessary preliminary step to discussing the legal regime of the right to food, food security and gender equality in Ghana. It was observed that the human rights structure of Ghana entails, the extent of the constitutionalisation of human rights, the temperament of the courts in dealing with human rights cases, the preparedness of the Ghanaian Bar to pick up human rights cases and the level of time devoted to human rights litigation by civil society organizations in the country.
At the primary level, the structure does not seem to be absent as a framework. However, at the substantive trajectory, the structure is not as effective as it should be. Part of the reason is the weak interaction between the Bar and Bench in respect of human rights cases. Besides, the Bench has not been able to effectively decode human rights provisions found in the Constitution. And the civil society organizations in the recent past devoted less time to socio-economic rights cases in the courts thereby blunting an effective public interest in human rights litigation. The cumulative effect of this set of reasons is that the human rights structure in Ghana lacks the required flesh to be able to pull through the normative standards and national apatite that will strengthen a comprehensive rights regime for the right to food to be realized.
Analysis and recommendations
Day two of the training event also witnessed two presentations. The first presentation was on the unique place of gender equality in the entire research project and how this is played out at the intersectional level of food security, land commercialization, right to food, policy and livelihood in Ghana. The implications of labour dynamics, land acquisition, farming, food preparation, and family economics for gender equality and right to food were among the findings shared with participants. The second presentation was on the legal regime on the right to food in Ghana. This was a discussion of the various constitutional provisions and legal documents grounding the right to food in Ghana. Besides, the basic elements of this right, namely availability, adequacy and accessibility were evaluated within the context of both international and domestic law. Lastly, the reception of these elements by the Ghanaian Courts was also discussed. It was generally agreed that the constitution protects the right to food indirectly and this “indirect window” should not be buried in a positivist construction of law. It is conceivable that the right to food will be much better protected and enforced in Ghana if the judiciary adopts a more non-originalist or purposive approach to interpretation, especially human rights provisions in the Constitution.
In addition to the above consensus, participants made the following recommandations:
- Judges should embrace continued legal education
- There should be an effective interaction between Law Faculties/School and the Bench
- In awarding maintenance allowance by judges, it is helpful if judges could award sums in percentages of the income rather than fixed amounts. The rationale is that the percentage will take into account increment in salaries or the fortunes of the person against whom the awards is made.
- The Bar should be encouraged to take on human rights cases, especially socio-economic cases
- Researchers should always share findings of work with the judiciary and other important stakeholders
- Attention of the legislature should be drawn on the status of the law particularly where the society has left behind the law and the need for the law to be brought
- Serious academic work must be encouraged
- People who take up posts within the judiciary as judges must prove high standards of knowledge of the law
- Courts should not engaged in self imposition of restraints on the enforcement of rights
- The dualist principles in respect of how international law and domestic law interact should check by human rights values